Alberta Politics
Heather McPherson, the federal NDP candidate in Edmonton Strathcona (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Those elusive Liberals of Edmonton Strathcona: Where did Mainstreet’s pollsters find them?

Posted on October 15, 2019, 1:31 am
8 mins

Volunteers for NDP candidate Heather McPherson’s campaign in the federal Edmonton-Strathcona riding are asking themselves, where the heck are those mobs of Liberal voters one pollster claims to have identified in the riding?

Door-knocking in 2019 in the progressive-leaning riding on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River feels much the same as it did in 2015, when New Democrat Linda Duncan went on to win by a comfortable 7,051-vote margin, NDP volunteers in the riding insist.

Linda Duncan, retiring NDP MP for Edmonton Strathcona (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Things have changed in the past four years, of course. For one thing, Ms. Duncan is about to retire. But the Dipper doorknockers maintain they’re getting about the same number of positive responses as they have in recent elections. There are few Liberal signs on private property.

So where are the hordes Liberals the riding-specific poll by Toronto-based Mainstreet Research claims to have unearthed in September?

The first political activists in the riding heard of it was in a detail-deficient iPolitics story published on Sept. 23.

Absent other information, the results showed up as a big jump for the Liberals in the poll tracker on Sept. 25 and 26 — a development that if real could result in a split vote that favours Conservative Sam Lilly in what may be the only riding in the province with the potential to elect an Opposition member this year.

Liberal candidate Eleanor Olszewski (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The Liberals, understandably, jumped on it and pushed the poll’s results hard in their efforts to boost their candidate, Eleanor Olszewski.

New Democrats believe it’s a false narrative, but fear that if too many voters were persuaded by it, it could get Mr. Lilly elected.

A Star Edmonton story mentioned it — again with very few facts — on Oct. 1. (The traditionally Liberal-leaning Star acquired iPolitics a year ago.)

On Saturday, Postmedia’s Alberta newspapers, which nowadays campaign openly for the Conservatives, claimed in a riding profile presumably based on Mainstreet’s poll, which was not acknowledged, that the NDP and Liberals are polling “neck and neck” in the riding and suggested Mr. Lilly would win.

So does the Mainstreet poll indicate a real trend, or is it an outlier for whatever reasons?

To answer this important question, it would be helpful to get more information about the poll’s methodology and the wording of the questions it asked. Strangely, though, that information does not show up in any of the credulous mainstream media accounts seen so far. I asked Mainstreet President and CEO Quito Maggi for that information.

Conservative candidate Sam Lilly (Photo: Facebook).

His emailed response was not particularly informative, unfortunately. “The poll was conducted for and published by iPolitics, it’s behind their paywall for subscribers,” he responded. “I can’t provide further details beyond confirming that it exists and that the quote (in the Oct. 1 Star story) is an accurate reflection of the poll findings at the time.”

For more information, he suggested subscribing to iPolitics.

Well, sorry, but’s subscription budget is all tapped out. So we’ll just go with what we know about past Mainstreet polls, which are sometimes accurate, sometimes not so accurate, and now and then, in Mr. Maggi’s own words, “a catastrophic failure.”

The best example of the latter category was the 2017 Mainstreet prediction Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi would lose to his Conservative challenger by a wide margin. Mr. Nenshi won. That was the poll Mr. Maggi termed catastrophic.

Mainstreet Research President and CEO Quito Maggi (Photo: Twitter).

Then there was the riding poll just before the Nanaimo, B.C., by-election in January in which the pollster said the B.C. Liberals had a huge lead over the NDP candidate (who won) and Mainstreet’s much-reported forecast of a Green Party victory in the Prince Edward Island provincial election in April (which the Conservatives won).

Mainstreet also got the winners right but the margins wrong enough to be outside its margin of error in this year’s provincial elections in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec. Other Mainstreet polls have done better.

Still, this suggests at the very least that both the Star and Postmedia need to give their readers more information about the polls they report on.

Mainstreet’s history notwithstanding, I’d bet money all three major parties’ campaigns have a good grip on what’s really happening on the ground now in Edmonton Strathcona — and that it’s not quite what Mainstreet said last month.

I’ve heard suggestions the Liberals are playing a long game — get a weak Conservative candidate elected and then beat him with a star candidate in four years. Maybe, but I don’t think that’s the way political parties usually think, especially in an election this close. True or not, though, if the NDP loses narrowly and the Liberals get blamed, they may not be forgiven for it in the riding by the time the next federal election rolls around.

Or maybe progressive voters in Strathcona will blame one of the Green, Communist, Marxist-Leninist or People’s Party candidates. Who knows?

My bet is the NDP are in fact a hair ahead of the other parties right now. After all, the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion shows the riding leaning NDP, and despite being impacted by the Mainstreet poll bump, the poll aggregation site, updated on Oct. 14, calls it a tossup with the Conservatives narrowly ahead. In other words, it’s the NDP and the Conservatives who are neck and neck.

Regardless, if you’re a New Democrat and you live in Edmonton Strathcona, or for that matter just someone opposed to the Conservatives, you’d better get out there and make sure on election day that Ms. McPherson is far enough ahead to win.

4 Comments to: Those elusive Liberals of Edmonton Strathcona: Where did Mainstreet’s pollsters find them?

  1. Dave

    October 15th, 2019

    I too have suspicions about some of the public riding level polls that show fairly even splits between the NDP and the Liberals, in certain ridings previously won both by the NDP and the Liberals in Edmonton.

    Maybe the pollsters did not ask the right questions or perhaps the questions they asked were designed to get the answers they wanted. In any case, I find it hard to believe the Conservatives are well ahead in Edmonton Strathcona or Edmonton Center and I also suspect Edmonton Millwoods is much closer than the public polling shows. I have seen a few more Conservative signs in Strathcona and actually also a few more NDP signs than in 2015. I suspect it will be a much closer race this time, but I don’t have the sense the Conservatives are ahead by a lot, if at all.

    Perhaps the coalitions of progressive voters in Strathcona and Edmonton Center have finally disintegrated, but I have a feeling the majority of voters in both areas still really do not want another Conservative backbencher and will again vote again for the party and candidate in their area best positioned to keep that from happening.

  2. Jim

    October 15th, 2019

    Perhaps they are similar to most Liberal candidates in Alberta, brought in from somewhere else but never really make an appearance in the riding. The real problem is, in my opinion, the vast majority of voters are not aware of Mainstreet’s history of using polls to shall we say nudge elections in a certain way.
    Hopefully this will rally the voters in Strathcona so Alberta at least has one voice at the table, the way things look we are headed for a minority government. The choice is pretty clear a backbencher who will tow the party line or someone that may have some say.

  3. J.E. Molnar

    October 15th, 2019

    …AND NOW THIS: Reader beware when it comes to online polling results.

    Unscientific online polls start with a badly selected sample. It’s not a sample of anybody; it is people who have volunteered/signed up to take online “internet” polls for incentives like prizes or money.

    Respondents for online polls are not randomly selected because there is no complete list of voters’ IP internet addresses; therefore the poll is not probability-based and has no margin of error. Furthermore, there is no way such polls can take into account the views of non-internet users. Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online non-probability polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error.

  4. Geoffrey Pounder

    October 15th, 2019

    “if the NDP loses narrowly and the Liberals get blamed… Or maybe progressive voters in Strathcona will blame one of the Green, Communist, Marxist-Leninist or People’s Party candidates.”

    Or blame Rachel Notley, who refused to publicly support the federal NDP in her riding of Edmonton Strathcona. Over one issue: pipelines.
    “Rachel Notley not sure she’ll vote NDP in federal election” (CBC,

    “What was Rachel Notley suggesting when she said she’s not committed to voting for Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats?” (Alberta Politics)

    If pipelines are the deciding issue, Notley’s only choice is between Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives or Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party.
    Hilariously, some diehard Notley loyalists nominate the Pipeline Princess for federal NDP leader after Singh. As if the federal party would lay out a welcome mat for Notley, after she sabotaged the federal NDP campaign and candidate Heather McPherson in Edmonton Strathcona,.
    When will AB NDP supporters wake up?


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